[GRASS-dev] Re: [GRASS-user] Basic GIS course ideas

Michael Barton michael.barton at asu.edu
Fri Oct 6 12:23:13 EDT 2006

I regularly teach a course in spatial technologies for anthropology grad
students. I have to start with an assumption that people know no GIS and go
from there. But I also want the students to be able to use GIS and related
tools in their research, not just to be able to push buttons and make maps.
This is consistently difficult, of course.

Beginning in 2004, I started to use GRASS in the course. I did both GRASS
and ESRI (both ArcView and ArcGIS in that year) as the software I discussed.
This was overly complicated and I probably will not include ArcGIS next

In 2005, I did a similar course at the U. Valencia (Spain) with only GRASS.
This past spring, I co-taught a remote sensing course that included GRASS
(along with other software) as recommended tools. (The PDF's are available
on my website and can be used by anyone who wants to).

The one biggest issue in using GRASS has been that most students use MS
Windows and GRASS was difficult to install for them--and consistently had
Windows related problems of access and permissions. This has been magnified
in a lab setting.

GRASS works great for teaching fundamental GIS and image processing
concepts--if you can get it to run on your Windows machine. I also strongly
recommend QGIS for beginners. However, it is more limited for teaching GIS
research concepts--especially on Windows where (at least until recently) the
GRASS plugins were either unavailable or complicated to install.

The new Windows native GRASS will make a HUGE difference in this. One of my
doctoral students just did a 2 afternoon workshop for other grad students on
GRASS and GIS. Huidae Cho and Glynn Clements did the new WinGRASS just in
time and deserve a tremendous thanks. Although it is still an alpha version,
90+% works which is enough to teach with. Everyone used it in the workshop.

I've looked at QGIS 0.8 and it is very nice. With the continuing work, it
should also be an excellent teaching tool. When I next teach spatial
technologies in a year, I will be using 100% GRASS and QGIS. Students can
walk away from the course with full-featured software that they can use for
the rest of their careers--and possibly contribute to improving. This is

Michael Barton, Professor of Anthropology
School of Human Evolution & Social Change
Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity
Arizona State University

phone: 480-965-6213
fax: 480-965-7671
www: http://www.public.asu.edu/~cmbarton

> From: Benjamin Ducke <benjamin.ducke at ufg.uni-kiel.de>
> Date: Fri, 06 Oct 2006 10:41:53 +0200
> To: GRASS devel <grass-dev at grass.itc.it>
> Subject: [GRASS-dev] Re: [GRASS-user] Basic GIS course ideas
> Hi Maning,
> I taught a combination of QGIS and GRASS a little while ago
> and I think it went alright.
> About one third of my students had no idea about GIS at all
> and one third had GRASS GIS skills.
> So I started by demonstrating some basic mapping, GIS file
> format issues, projections, georeferencing etc. using QGIS.
>  From there, it was easy to start the GRASS plugin and introduce
> students step-by-step to the underlying power of GRASS GIS.
> The transition was quite smooth, as many tricky GRASS concepts
> (like the region) have direct visual feedback in QGIS via the
> plugin and things like data import and export from/to the GRASS
> database get quite a lot easier using the GRASS toolbox.
> I would recommend using GRASS GIS 6.2 and QGIS compiled natively
> for Windows (there are some instructions by Radim Blazek
> somewhere on the Wiki site).
> For 3D-visualization, I used ParaView and that worked well, too.
> For an extended course including things like point patten analysis,
> you could also add R.
> Best,
> Benjamin
> maning sambale wrote:
>> Hi FOSS GIS users,
>> I am a part-time instructor in a college teaching introductory gis
>> course.  I have been advocating for the use FOSS GIS (particularly
>> GRASS and QGIS ) in our schools for the lab sessions.
>> This is the second term I am doing this and have been reflecting on
>> how did it go the first time.
>> The objective of the course is for students to understand basic gis
>> principles as well as practical applications in site planning, land
>> use, ecology and business.
>> Judging by the previous experience, it is a little bit difficult
>> introducing the student FOSS GIS especially the linux way of doing
>> things (CLI).  We are using XP machines and most students probably
>> know computers as MS windows only.
>> Some are more interested in creating cool maps and not on the
>> underlying spatial analysis techniques (i.e. r.mapcalc) that were
>> used.
>> I wrote the list to ask GRASS instructors on any ideas in making the
>> course better.  If you have any approaches/techniques/exercises you
>> might want to share please do.  I firmly believe using FOSS GIS
>> especially in our country is very important.  As a compromise though,
>> a suggestion from this list was to also introduce them to propriety
>> GIS package.  We have a few arcview 3.2 in the lab so I might give a 1
>> or 2 sessions about it.
>> Any ideas would be appreciated.
>> Cheers,
>> Maning
> -- 
> Benjamin Ducke, M.A.
> Archäoinformatik
> (Archaeoinformation Science)
> Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte
> (Inst. of Prehistoric and Historic Archaeology)
> Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
> Johanna-Mestorf-Straße 2-6
> D 24098 Kiel
> Germany
> Tel.: ++49 (0)431 880-3378 / -3379
> Fax : ++49 (0)431 880-7300
> www.uni-kiel.de/ufg

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